Building the Estes D-Region Tomahawk (part 1)

During Estes’s sale last December I did not buy a D-Region Tomahawk (#2037). I bought five.

Well, see, it was at the top of my “wow, what a sale, let’s get this” list; a big, nice rocket for $5.49 vs. (too high!) list price $43.49? But it went out of stock sometime between “add to cart” and “checkout”. I went ahead and ordered other things, and then it was back in stock the next day; by then I was thinking two D-Regions would be better than one. But two plus shipping would have been only a few bucks less than five with free shipping. So I ordered five.

One I donated to the rocket club. One went into my build pile and has waited patiently there until now. The other three… well, they’re sort of in limbo at the moment. Haven’t yet decided what to do with them — unless I mess up this one, in which case I’ll turn to them for spare parts or, if worst comes to worst, a complete do-over.

This rocket’s a scale model of a NASA sounding rocket launched once, in 1968 from Wallops Island (where have I heard of that recently?); the D-Region, intended to probe the D region of the ionosphere, was a variant of the Thiokol Tomahawk of 1963–67 (which was meant but not used for International Quiet Sun Year (IQSY) experiments). It’s probably a lot more famous as a model rocket than in its original incarnation. There’ve been a ton of D-Region and IQSY Tomahawk kits from various companies. See also “Model Rocketry” Vol. 3 No. 8 starting on page 10 for scale data and much information.

Here are the parts, except for a yellow spacer tube that got separated from the pack temporarily. IMG_3243Here are the small parts from the bag. IMG_3244There are some unusual features to this kit. The fin can is plastic, but in several pieces. Estes recommends tube cement to put it together, but I’ve heard of people having problems with that; I’m going to try tube cement for the plastic-to-cardboard joints, but Tenax 7R for plastic-to-plastic. There’s a long stuffer tube, with a thrust ring but no motor hook — instead there’s a plastic retainer that mates to the fin can. There’s a lot of detail molded into the plastic parts, including about nine thousand screw heads, and in addition to the functional launch lugs there’s a scale launch lug.

Given the unusual features, I’ll be mostly following the instructions closely. Or at least I started that way. Glued the thrust ring into the stuffer tube, the fin body bulkhead to the stuffer tube, the stuffer bulkhead to the body tube adapter. Dry fitted the fin body halves and found a small gap; the alignment hole was a bit too small (or the pin too big). I used a handheld 1/16″ drill bit to open the hole up.IMG_3245Then glued the fin body halves together around the stuffer tube.IMG_3246


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